QUAERITUR: confirmation robes

From a priest: 

From amongst your readership, would anyone have an idea where to find/purchase traditional Confirmation robes similar to those in common usage before the Council?

There are very few resources available online, and these tend to resemble the blandest red or white choir robes (some including a stole!) more than some of the garments I have seen used in older film footage of past Confirmations.  Any leads would be very much appreciated.

Interesting question.

I always like to suggest calling "John" in church goods at Leaflet Missal in St. Paul.

Readers?  Help this priest!

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46 Responses to QUAERITUR: confirmation robes

  1. Alice says:

    I don’t think Confirmation robes are particularly traditional, at least not here in the Midwest(US). My mother in the 1960′s and my grandmother in the 1920′s both wore their Sunday clothes, as did my sister when she was confirmed at St. John Cantius in Chicago less than 10 years ago. We rented red graduation gowns for my OF Confirmation.

  2. Paul Stokell says:

    There was something of a dustup a few years back about this. Some well-meaning “parish liturgist” (as opposed to someone that studied the subject) began festooning youngsters with robes, stoles, and other schlock to the point of confusing their outfit with that of a priest.

    The topic of Confirmation is a field pockmarked with rabbit holes, Father.

  3. TLH says:

    I always thought they were a novus ordo thing or Protestant. From what I’ve seen girls were always in nice dresses, often white and boys always in suit, tie, and some with confirmation arm bands.

    As to where to get something like that for confirmation, you can try also House of Hansen in Chicago.

  4. Fr. Lane says:

    I can only speak to my own experience, but in the parishes I know that use robes they do so because of the kinds of fashions that young ladies wear. One priest friend of mine said that if they did not use robes for Confirmation, the Mass would be rated PG-13. I personally make the “dress code” very clear for both men and women…there is some howling at first but everyone does comply.

  5. Mitch_WA says:

    To me this all seems so weird because in my diocese the normal time for confirmation is immediatly preceeding First Holy Communion. So the bisop comes (as he did last sunday at my parish, in all his Skylstadiness) and performed Confirmations of the 8 cannidates and then he gave them First Holy Communion later on at that Mass. It was the same for me back when I was confirmed and recieved first Holy Communion (but for some reason I was told I wasn’t supposed to go to Confession until 3rd grade, but I received First Communion and Confirmation is Second Grade… whoopsi. Thank you cdd program… (on a positive note I did learn about mustard seeds, and about how we should be good stewards of the earth!)

    Robes for Confirmation thus sound quite outlandish to me… I would think it better just to have a dress code, or do simply confirm at the same time as First Communion around 7 or 8 years of age. Proper dress is alot eaiser to acheive at that age.

  6. Mitch_WA says:

    For Confirmation THE CANNIDATES SHOULD NOT WEAR PRIESTLY CLOTHING like stoles. Grr… You know I always thought I lived in a pretty liberal diocese but more and more I realize its not that bad here.

  7. Maureen says:

    I’ve never heard of Confirmation robes. It would seem to confuse matters with baptism. I guess you could have people wear albs, as any baptized Christian has a right to wear one of those, but in that case you’d have to be sure to call them albs, issue the same style to everybody, and not have people buying them separately. (A hardship to make people buy stuff so they can get a sacrament they have a right to receive.) And they probably ought to look like what the servers wear, at least enough that people can tell that servers wear albs.

    The whole thing sounds way too much like graduation, telling kids that their parishes want them never to learn anything about their faith again. Hello! You never graduate from being educated as a Catholic!

    I have seen medieval pictures where kids who’d just been confirmed were given white headbands to tie over the anointed spot on their foreheads. (I must admit that I thought this was mighty cool. Also, anything where you get to take something sacramental home is a plus for ceremony.) White headbands — plain ol’ strips of fabric — are also cheap and easy to store.

    (You’re not sitting there wondering what to do with a frickin’ alb in your closet for the rest of your life, or tempting kids to use their Confirmation albs as part of Halloween or some stupid seance at college.)

  8. Antiquarian says:

    I have no memory of such robes being used before the Council. Certainly my brothers and sister, all of whom were confirmed in the late 50s-early 60s, did not wear them. It was indeed more of a “grown-up suit and tie” or white dress occasion. I was confirmed in 67 and it was the same then.

  9. Pomeroy on the Palouse says:

    (as he did last sunday at my parish, in all his Skylstadiness)

    I hope I don’t get in trouble for hijacking the thread or climbing down a rabbit hole or anything, but Hi to Mitch_wa, another apparent Eastern Washingtonian.

    Bringing it back on the topic, we (used to at least) apparently go with the stoles here in SE Washington as these pictures from June of 2001 (when our daughter was 7 1/2) had her first Confession and Communion and was Confirmed (in that order).

    I don’t know how to do a link, so here’s the page: http://www.castlemoyle.com/family/brittany.htm

    John in Pomeroy on the Palouse

  10. Maureen says:

    The painting I remembered was Rogier van der Weyden’s altarpiece “The Seven Sacraments” (c. 1445-1450)

    It’s very cool, because it portrays the then-current staff of the Cathedral performing their normal sacramental duties, all stuffed into one triptych. (Sometimes not entirely naturalistically. A guy dying in his bed at home is shown inside the cathedral, too. But then, so is Christ’s crucifixion — in the foreground of the central panel — so it’s pretty clear that various dimensions of sacramental reality are mixing together.)

    Here’s the left hand panel, showing the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Confession. As you can see, the medieval kids (who probably are also receiving First Communion) are dressed in normal good clothes, except for the headbands to stop the chrism dripping and allow total strangers to congratulate them. :) It looks like the headbands are made out of the same kind of material as bandages back then, so it’s not expensive stuff but it’s probably absorptive. (The waiting greyhound has very nice manners.)

  11. For my Confirmation we had to wear those dumb robes…get rid of them. No robes needed. Suit and Tie for guys, Long dress (and chapel veil) for the girls, simple and much much cheaper in the days of a tough economy.

  12. Nancy McClintock says:

    Confirmation robes are not novus ordo. I wore one in 1957. It was white with
    red collar similar to an academic robe. The girls wore a red beanie with a
    white pompom. It was acutely embarrassing for a twelve year old; I thought
    they were hideous. And superfluous, as we all wore nice white dresses underneat.
    No, we don’t need to look even remotely clerical. Please, everybody, follow
    Fr. Lane’s advice: dressy but modest. I like Maureen’s idea of headbands, too.

  13. sacerdos in germania says:

    I love the head bands…there is a similar pratice in the rite of consecration of bishops in the traditional rite in which the newly consecrated bishop has a band of white linen wrapped around his head to keep the chrism from dripping.
    I’m defintely for re-introducing this practice for confirmations…

  14. fr.franklyn mcafee says:

    In my diocese (Arlington) stoles have always been forbidden.The bishop sent out pictures of robes in catalogues with innaproprate ones crossed out.Our policy in Arlington is no stoles; and robes for both boys and girls.No picture of a recipient of confirmation with the bishop may be taken without a robe.The reason of course is modesty in dress.

  15. Maureen says:

    Re: the stole picture

    Well, the kids all look cute, but the stoles look creepy.

    I will stop feeling martyred about growing up in the Church in the seventies and eighties. Wow! There are dorky ideas now that nobody had yet thought of, then!

    Re: the lady in back, we all know how a grown woman should wear a stola — over her head, like a good Roman matron! (And this is why they don’t want me coming to Worship Commission meetings.)

  16. Maureen says:

    Oh, phooey on me. “Stola” is the Roman lady’s dress. “Palla” is the shawl/veil thingie. But later on, “stola” did refer to the shawl/veil thingie, so I wasn’t entirely wrong.

    The origin of liturgical stoles is apparently a matter of dispute.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stole_(vestment)#Etymology_and_history

  17. Not Getting Creaky Just Yet says:

    My Confirmation picture shows that I was in my Easter best, a sleeveless yellow dress with big white polka dots, and on my head was the triangular lace thingie that I still had from my First Communion–dressy headgear was not a common item in our house–and the dress code for the occasion, which the priest didn’t have to announce, was “Easter Sunday best.” No stupid long dresses. No indecent stuff–but we were fifth graders, about. No stupid choir robes. And nobody ever heard of such silliness as the currently advertised stoles.
    My three older children, all confirmed in a different geographical location, wore Easter best also. No robes, no stoles, no grandiose prideful long formal dresses.
    To some extent what people wear for these sacraments is a social decision of the region; my solution before starting on the last child’s First Communion dress was to ask at the office. Sylvia, the secretary, said “whatever you want” which may be the Official Answer, but I said “What do most people wear? Because she won’t want to stand out.” And Sylvia’s answer: “mid calf length” for the dress. Bingo, we were good to go, no risk of being the only girl in an above-knee dress or the only girl in an ankle length dress.

  18. Maureen says:

    (still Googling and riding my cold medicine)

    Stoles are only supposed to be worn by priests and deacons. Even for the old subdeacons to wear them would have constituted a usurpation of authority, and subdeacons were already clergy!

    Stoles indeed represent the duty to the Lord of a deacon and the yoke of the Lord upon a priest. So making kids wear a priest’s yoke when they’re just trying to get sealed in the Spirit is a pretty mean trick.

    So yes, I think it’s pretty bad for laypeople to wear liturgical-looking stoles.

    (Giving the kids mere fashion stoles to wear, like feather boas or dead foxes to wear around their necks, would not be a usurpation of authority. If you gave them all silk scarves, they would look like Bollywood dancers but not presumptuous usurpers.)

  19. joanofarcfan says:

    My confirmation was in 1962, on the brink of the disaster ahead. The boys all wore red choir-type robes and the girls wore white, with the above-mentioned red pompomed (!) beanie for the girls because they were still required to wear something on their heads in church (give me the good old days). I like the idea because it neutralizes everyone in their attire, avoids competition and scandal (especially nowadays), and shifts the focus where it belongs, on the sacrament. I did not find it embarrassing. No stoles, pulleeez!

  20. Irish says:

    I was confirmed at St Raphael Parish in St. Louis in 1963, when I was in the second grade. None of this waiting until they are teenagers and can decide for themselves nonsense. Everyone knows teenagers are rebellious. All the girls wore their white First Communion dresses and veils from the year before. I believe the boys wore their blue suits. Sponsors wore Sunday clothes. I don’t remember any robes, except on the altar boys.

  21. Fr. BJ says:

    This is probably along the lines of what I would use, in order to ensure modesty and uniformity:
    http://www.robes.com/index.cfm/fa/subcategories.main/MasterCatID/5/CatID/61/SubCatID/198

    However, one idea is to buy one of these plastic-byproduct cheapies and then have a skilled parishioner make copies with better materials, for example, a fabric that is machine-washable and irons easily. Then the parish could also keep (and launder) them for re-use for future confirmation classes, thus avoiding having to have the parents buy a one-time-use item which most of them don’t want to keep around anyhow.

  22. Fr. BJ: ensure modesty and uniformity

    Very good ideas, these days.

  23. Margaret says:

    My two oldest used exactly the type of throwaway red robes Fr. BJ pictured. One of them has since been transformed into a Harry Potter Quidditch robe and used as a Halloween costume…

    Confirmation stoles are totally, utterly wrong, even more wrong than the white baptism stoles one parish in my area employed for a period of time.

    But I do have one issue with the white head bandage things– do they remind anybody else of the Karate Kid, or is it just me?

  24. Kristen says:

    Glad I am not the only person who recycled their Confirmation robe into a Quiddich costume.
    But then again, I did the same thing with my grad robe from College. I make a lovely Professor McGonagall, if I do say so myself.

    Most of the robes used for Confirmation are cheap and disgusting. But I get the clothes thing. Gals in both my, and my sisters, Confirmation classes wore ball gowns. That’s right- ball gowns. It ws ridiculous to see these girls in the robes with huge puffy skirts poking out underneath.

  25. And hi to John from Pomeroy. (Pomeroy! You’d think if someone from the Palouse would comment he’d be from Moscow of Pullman.)

    So I’m being confirmed this Easter. I don’t think we’ll have robes, but what color should I wear? Cacky pants, a white shirt and a dark tie, or should I wear some color?

  26. Fr. BJ says:

    Most of the robes used for Confirmation are cheap and disgusting.

    That is why I think it would be good for a parish to have someone make a set of robes out of more dignified and durable materials that can also be washed and pressed (unlike the throaway recycled polyester ones that would melt if an iron was put anywhere near them). They could be reused by the parish each year and the parents wouldn’t have to buy anything, or at most make a small donation to help cover the cost of washing/pressing or drycleaning or whatever.

  27. Father Totton says:

    forgive me if this is a rabbit hole, but, I have a picture of a fist Communion class from the early 1960s and it shows the girls in the traditional dresses, while the boys are all wearing cinctured albs (every child is also wearing the brown scapular outside said clothing.) Is anyone here familiar with this practice? Doeas anyone know of a parish where it is (still) employed?

  28. Gail F says:

    I have never heard of Confirmation robes. Around here (Cincinnati Ohio) the girls wear modest dresses and the boys wear suits. When my daughter was confirmed last year, all the girls had sleeveless or spaghetti-strap dresses and wore little \”shrugs\” — which are sort of like short sweaters — over them for modesty in church, then they could wear the dresses at less modest occasions. (My daughter wore hers for confirmation, Easter, and eighth-grade graduation). Our parish is celebrating its centennial this year and I have seen many confirmation group photos but no robes.

  29. Maureen says:

    This is a fun and interesting thread!

    Re: linen strips around head

    Speaking for myself, I think the resemblance to battle headbands is a feature, not a bug. But yes, I suspect you’d want to avoid long strings going down the back, if only to prevent confirmandi from batting and pulling at the strips, or flipping them around. :)

  30. paul says:

    I have looked at old pictures of people being confirmed prior to vatican 2, they looked like they were just dressed up in their Sunday best- no robes.

  31. Gloria says:

    Well, back to the Middle Ages again. We were confirmed as eighth graders in 1945. We had to be at least 13 years old. We were to become soliders of Christ and needed to have an understanding of what that meant, brought home by the sharp slap on the cheek. Catechism classes were taken quite seriously. Of course most of us were in a parochial school, taught by dedicated religious in long black habits. The girls wore white dresses or white blouses and skirts covering our knees, long stockings and white dressy shoes. We also wore a veil, exactly like a First Communion Veil, which hung midway down our backs. The boys wore suits and ties. In those days we were also enrolled in the brown scapular at Confirmation and stood to take “The Pledge” not to drink until we were 21 years old.

  32. Charivari Rob says:

    From friends and family I’ve talked to around here in the northeast, I think the use of robes for confirmation has faded a bit, thank God!

    Biggest objection is that robes were part of the attitude of treating confirmation too much like a graduation (in the ‘end of something’ sense as opposed to the ‘beginning of something’ sense) – we’re teenagers, we’ve completed our sacraments of initiation, we don’t have to go to CCD anymore, we don’t have to go to Mass regularly anymore…

    Needless expense, too, for something that would be little-used. Much better, imo, to enforce and reinforce dressing ‘in Sunday best’.

    Last, I remember them being ugly. I have these vague memories of my confirmation. Girls and boys both in reddish robes – I think to symbolize Pentecost and the fire of the Holy Spirit come down on us. Anyway, it was an orange sort of red, almost copper. We all looked like batteries.

  33. Dennis says:

    I was confirmed in 1964, Bronx ny. The boys dressed in blue suits with white shirt, red tie, red arm band, and red flower. The girls in a white dress

  34. Tina says:

    Fr. Triton

  35. Tina says:

    Fr. Triton – My Uncle’s first Communion picture has the boys in the same thing you described and it is from the late 40s early 50s.

    My confirmation at the New Cathedral in St. Louis we wore Sunday best (It was 8th and 7th grade). Actually, now that I think about it I wore something better than Sunday dress…like Christmas dress. My sister at IHM in St. Louis wore Sunday best too.
    I think most of us liked the idea of wearing Sunday best because we went to Catholic school and wore uniforms every day.

    One way around the modest dress thing is to have the girls wear/bring the dress/outfit before the Confirmation for approval. I had to do something similar in high school for graduation.

    I think the problem has become it has become an occasion to shine/out-shine others.

    The Cathedral here had to put out guidelines for wedding dresses because brides were dressing inappropriately.

  36. Conly says:

    We recently purchased stoles for the Confirmation class so name tags could be pinned to them. The dress code for boys is to wear dress pants, shirt and tie (or suit) and the girls to wear dresses. Confirmation is in the spring so the girls were wearing sleaveless dreass and there was no where to pin the name tag. That is why we purchase the stoles for this year. So my question are stoles allowed?

  37. matt says:

    Conly,

    the stole is a part of the priest’s vestments, it shouldn’t be worn by lay people. Why not have a dresscode that requires modest dresses, wouldn’t that be more appropriate for the sacrament anyway? Why do they need a name tag?

  38. Amadan says:

    Wow!

    What a discussion. Can we at least agree that visiting the local LDS supply house for robes is a bad idea?

    Yes, it’s been done..

  39. aveeva says:

    i was Confirmed in ’64 – the boys wore suits (who’d of thought of anything else then) and we girls had red robes and small red beanies ~ a very lovely and uniform appearance even when the fear of what might be hiding under the robes didn’t exist. still have the beanie & the candle… as our diocese celebrated a major anniversary last year, there were several “group” Confirmations. our God-daughter was in the last group held in school gym. i can only say i was in tears by the end ~ sadly, a priest who doesn’t control the dress code today is either very brave or very silly.

  40. I was confirmed in the mid sixties. The girls dressed in white dresses and veils like at First communion but they also wore a red ribbon about three and a half inches wide from their shoulder to below their waist on the opposite side, much like the Order of the Garter.

    The boys wore their best suit with a red ribbon on the upper left arm like the white ones that had been worn at First Communion.

  41. Josiah Ross. says:

    I know that a saw some old photos of a confirmation in the early fifties that has all the boy confirmands in red robes, and the girls in white with little red beanies and red ribbons.

  42. therese b says:

    1971 England. Boys wore suits ; girls wore white dresses and white mantillas. Husband in Ireland, to his chagrin, had to wear an Aran Sweater – very fashionable, apparently.

  43. Maureen says:

    The interesting thing here is that junior high/high school Confirmations seem to have started at least two decades before Vatican II, in some US dioceses. Likewise, the use of robes seems to have started earlier in some of the same US dioceses.

    Meanwhile, Confirmations concurrent with First Communion seem to have persisted in many of the same US dioceses which “run behind” in other trends. In many of these places, the whole robe thing seems never to have caught on.

    I suspect the white dresses/veils thing was a holdover from when First Communions and Confirmations were at the same time. Although to be fair, white dresses seem to have been worn on all sorts of ceremonial occasions early in the 20th century, by Catholics and non-Catholics alike. They used to be seen as peculiarly suitable for young girls anyway, and an Easter dress was often white. If that was your one really fancy church dress, there you’d be.

  44. CPT Tom says:

    When I was confirmed in the late 70s we wore robes. Boys in red and girls in white. Looking at pictures of my older brothers and sisters who were confirmed in the mid 60s before the council they were attired the same.

    An interesting side note…when I was confirmed, afterwords my oldest brother, who was my sponsor, was quite shocked (more like disappointed) that the bishop didn’t slap us. He really felt that we’d gotten off easy. In hindsight, I think this tradition should not have been dropped. I think the readiness to suffer or even die for the faith needs to be re-emphasized as it has been completely forgotten (at least in my diocese) as part of the preparation for confirmation.